BALTIMORE, May 17, 2013 — President Obama is leaving behind scandal-focused Washington this afternoon to focus instead on the nation’s allegedly improving jobs picture. We say allegedly because the real unemployment numbers still remain historically high by any standard when you factor in those who’ve dropped off the unemployment rolls as their unemployment compensation ran out. These, and those who’ve defensively taken Social Security disability payments aren’t counted in the government’s official unemployment numbers.
The President is scheduled to fly by helicopter this afternoon to Democrat- and union-friendly Baltimore this afternoon. Charm City has had its share of tough times in the move from an industrial to service economy although it has yet to blame any of this on the long string of Democrats who’ve ruled this city as a fiefdom for decades.
The White House said Obama’s trip is designed to focus on three areas of needed investment to grow the middle class — jobs, skills and opportunity. Unfortunately, however, the President’s record arguably reflects disdain for the middle-class, which has been relentlessly eviscerated by the lingering pain of Great Depression II, largely due to this Administration’s focus on political payoffs to unions and wealthy supporters rather than actually helping stimulate the real economy. More likely, the trip is intended to distract attention from the Administration’s involvement in serious, ongoing scandals.
The president plans to highlight one of the manufacturing companies still thriving in the city by speaking at Ellicott Dredges. The company makes equipment for excavation under water and on beachfronts around the world.
Rep. Andy Harris, Maryland’s only Republican congressman—a signal accomplishment in a state that’s been ruthlessly gerrymandered by the Democrats—criticized Obama’s excursion as a photo opportunity, as opposed to staying in Washington to work on economic problems.
For example, Harris said Obama has been dragging his feet on developing the Keystone XL pipeline that would carry oil from western Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast and create jobs. The administration has not yet taken a position on the project, which is opposed by environmentalists but—ironically—supported by the president of Ellicott Dredges, Peter Bowe, in testimony before Congress Thursday.
“That would boost jobs at Ellicott Dredges, but other than that, it’s just going to be another photo op on a campaign-style tour when the president should be in Washington tending to the nation’s business and to address the huge scandals that are popping up on a daily basis in Washington,” Harris said in a conference call with other Maryland Republicans.
The President plans to tout another alleged effort to create jobs in his visit to Ellicott Dredges. He signed a memorandum Friday to federal agencies directing them to update infrastructure permit processes with the goal of cutting their timelines in half, which, of course, still doesn’t create any jobs or get the hyperactive EPA and other agencies out of small companies’ metaphorical hair.
The White House said it’s an important step in his goal of creating jobs by making urgent repairs to roads, bridges and railways. Unfortunately, it’s also an important step in dragging out job-crushing red tape that should have been cut in the President’s last term. Such photo-op style announcements create the impression of motion on key job-creation issues while doing little, if anything, to actually encourage the creation of jobs.
Meanwhile, on Wall Street, the market was fairly positive this morning on options-expiration Friday. The typical gyrations and shenanigans that go on during options expiration weeks are hard to describe to small investors. But suffice it to say that hedge funds and HFTs manipulate prices to sniff out the strike prices of options held by unwary small investors in order take advantage of the options to snag shares at bargain prices by folks who’ve stepped away from their computers for a cup of coffee.
All this is legal but maddening, as small investors don’t really have much of a chance to defend themselves against the practice, known as “hunting down options” or “hunting down strike prices.” It’s just another reason why small investors have been reluctant to return to the opaque but dangerous snake pit that U.S. markets have become over the last two decades.
We’d advise picking off a few profits today and building cash, in order to take advantage of the usual recent tendency of this market to experience nasty downdrafts on Mondays. In spite of “sell in May” sentiments as well as market toppiness, the continued force-feeding of the stock market by the Federal Reserve is keeping prices unrealistically high, and it’s likely to continue, at least for now.
Yogi Berra is famous for having said, “It ain’t over ‘til it’s over.” The problem is that we have no idea as to when the Fed’s pump priming will actually be over. So we continue to play it safe, as even our usually accurate charts and technical signals have been betraying us regularly, all steam-rollered by the Fed’s continual avalanche of money which is meant to force investors large and small to put more and more money into the market.
This could all end very abruptly and very badly. But for now, we can at least enjoy the ride while we keep an eye on the exit doors.
With that in mind, let’s square up our positions and enjoy the weekend.
–AP contributed to this report.
NOTE: Above photo pictures President Obama and aide departing DC in April, 2013.
Disclaimer: The author of this column maintains several active trading and investment portfolios and owns residential and investment real estate.
Positions mentioned above describe this author’s own investment decisions and should not be construed as either buy or sell recommendations. The current market is highly treacherous and all investors travel at their own risk, so caution should be exercised at all times.
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